Top honour for science and innovation dept DG

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 11 Mar 2024
Department of Science and Innovation director-general Dr Phil Mjwara.
Department of Science and Innovation director-general Dr Phil Mjwara.

Dr Phil Mjwara, the Department of Science and Innovation’s (DSI’s) long-standing director-general, has received recognition for his contribution to promoting SA’s science, technology and innovation.

Mjwara last week received the Presidential Award during the annual South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Merit Awards in Cape Town.

Through the awards, says a statement, SAMRC acknowledges outstanding contributions to health research. It also recognises individuals who have demonstrated exceptional scientific acumen, or made innovative strides in addressing public health challenges, potentially influencing policy to enhance the well-being of all South Africans.

Now DG at the DSI for the past 18 years, Mjwara holds a BSc, MSc and PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand.

His academic career includes serving as professor of science and technology policy at the University of Pretoria, and physics lectureships at the universities of the Witwatersrand, South Africa and Fort Hare.

As the department’s DG, Mjwara led SA's first national science and technology foresight exercise, which laid the foundation for the national system of innovation, according to the statement.

He is also highly-regarded in various global forums, as a senior member of the Unesco International Basic Sciences Programme and the Square Kilometre Array Observatory Council.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, SAMRC president professor Glenda Gray said Mjwara had built a strong legacy in the country.

The DG also helped to formulate the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Decadal Plan, which elevated STI to the presidential level, with the first presidential plenary held last year.

The plan focuses on using STI to address societal challenges and highlights the importance of health research in the STI environment in SA, explains Gray.

“Dr Mjwara has set the vision for all policy development in the science and technology sector in SA. He saw the need to create sustainable programmes, infrastructure and human capacity to ensure SA achieves excellence in critical areas of science and technology,” noted Gray.

The SAMRC also honoured Glaudina Loots, the DSI's director for health innovation, with a special award for her support and leadership in health research in the country.

Loots is responsible for the implementation of the health components of the bio-economy strategy for South Africa.

She is also considered instrumental in the creation of the Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships initiative at the SAMRC, which funds and manages innovation projects focused on the development of new drugs, treatments, vaccines, medical devices and prevention strategies.

Gray said medical research remains fundamental for transformation, innovation and collaboration in advancing scientific discovery.

“Celebrating medical research excellence not only honours the achievements of researchers, but also inspires progress, fosters collaboration and enhances the overall impact of scientific advancements on global health and well-being.”